Russian hooligans terrorised England fans at the 2016 European Championships and fears are growing the same could occur this summer when Russia hosts the World Cup.
Professor Anthony Glees, director of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Security and Intelligence, said England fans should think very carefully about whether the risk of attack is worth attending the tournament.
He told Express.co.uk organised groups of hooligans could even be utilised by the Russian government to batter – and humiliate – England.
Amid an all-but total breakdown in relations between Russia and the UK following the Sergei Skripal and Syria crises, Professor Glees said attacking England fans – or even players was too big a “propaganda prize” to ignore.
Russia news: England fans have been warned to ‘think twice’ about travelling to the World Cup
The threat of confrontation with ultras is extremely high
He said: “I am suggesting they should think twice. Fans don’t have nine lives.
“The most likely to affect them is Russian fans. I think there are Russian fans who will do there best to provoke England fans. that is how they behaved in Euro 2016. We know Russians came with knuckle dusters and particularly singled out England fans.”
He said the tension of the past few months would only exacerbate matters when England fans arrived in Russia in June to the extent that the Kremlin could involve itself in matters.
Prof Glees said: “The historical context is important. Theresa May has taken the lead in confronting Russia. Not just about football but about Russia being behind the murderous attacks not just on Skripal and his daughter but on up to 500 ordinary British people in Salisbury going about their daily lives who may have been infected with nerve agent whose long term effects cannot be predicted.
“The second thing to worry about is state interference. If there’s some way to provoke fans, in this case to cause trouble or provoke fans into making a spectacle of themselves and get in trouble, they will do so.
“I’m not hysterical about this. I accept none of this is a done deal but I’m saying they could do it. These are the sort of things that could happen.
“Fans could be attacked, fans could be provoked. They want to throw back at us what we accuse them on. They want to say we are the ones with violent fans.”
Prof Glees urged England fans who do make the trip to do everything in their power to avoid trouble.
Russia fans will attempt to provoke England fans, pictured above in France in 2016, at the World Cup
He said fans could be attacked – or even seduced and then accused of rape in honeytraps – and urged extreme caution.
He said: “They need to be careful of all the obvious things. They must not be provoked, there will be a lot of taunting of England fans.
“Fans must be careful for honey traps which could involve them in rape charges.
“They should do nothing in Russia that they wouldn’t want their mothers or wives to know about.
England fans were attacked by Russian hooligans in Marseille during Euro 2016
“Go easy on the drinking, very easy. The main thing is provocation and being put into a situation where England fans appear violent and out to harm Russia.
“They need to be thinking about how will the Russian propaganda machine be portraying this.
“It’s not just physical risks, they need to be aware of how things will look on Russian TV and from there the TV screens of the world.”